I was fortunate enough to be able to talk with Jesper Schmidt of Fane of Fantasy on flora and fauna in fantasy world building. (Don’t judge. I’ve never done anything like that before.) One of the things we discussed was making sure the world made sense.
Now, while I agree that a fantasy world needs to make sense within itself, I don’t think it has to make sense in relation to our world. For example, trees growing in a place that’s always winter. That doesn’t work for our world, as even the harshest climates with flora thaw for at least a few weeks out of the year. However, in another world, this might be normal. The plants, animals, and people don’t have to follow the natural patterns we see in our own because it isn’t our world.
Take Grevared, for example. The entire world exists in a void space without celestial bodies. The plots of land are flat, and it’s perfectly possible to fall off the world. The world is able to exist because the gods take an active part in keeping it going. This isn’t something that’s necessarily discussed in the books, other than a mention here and there, but it’s how the world functions. The ‘normal’ laws as we perceive them from our world don’t always apply. Therefore, there may be plants and animals in places where they wouldn’t exist in our world.
I think it’s important that, as readers, we bear this in mind when we enter a world not our own. Sure, we want the world to make sense, but if all fantasy worlds are nothing more than mirrors of the world in which we live, then what’s the point of having a fantasy world at all? I know my love of fantasy comes, in part, from being able to go somewhere else, somewhere those pesky laws that limit our daily existence don’t always apply. I love being able to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride.